Dominic Merkel, at left, and Brad Sikkink recently returned from the BPAA International Family Tournament in Jupiter, Fla., where they finished in ninth place.
Dominic Merkel, at left, and Brad Sikkink recently returned from the BPAA International Family Tournament in Jupiter, Fla., where they finished in ninth place.
Brad Sikkink and his stepson, Domanic Merkel, have recently shared an incredible journey to the Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA) International Family Tournament in Jupiter, Fla., where they finished in ninth place in their division. The two earned the trip by bowling the game of their lives during the state tournament held in May in Big Lake, Minn. There, the parent-youth team finished first out of 82 teams.

"I'm so glad we had the opportunity to go," Brad said. "It was a great experience for both of us."

Their journey began locally, when Brad and Domanic qualified at the local level, bowling at the B&B Olympic Bowl in Preston. Bowling in the youth/parent division, the two earned a spot at the state tournament.

"After bowling here, we were surprised we made it," said Brad.

Domanic said he was happy to partner with his stepfather because Brad has been helping him improve his bowling since he started hitting the lanes when he was 7 years old. Plus, he said with a smile, "He's the only one in my family who can bowl!"

Domanic shared that he began bowling because, at the time, he couldn't play any other sports. "Bowling was something I could do," he added.

Brad has been bowling for the past 10 years, starting to bowl at the age of 19 in the Tuesday and Wednesday night leagues at the bowling alley in Preston. He has also traveled to other tournaments with bowlers from the local lanes as well.

At the state meet, held May 12, the team shined and bowled 30 pins above their average. "It was the day!" Brad added. They won by 15 pins.

Traveling to Jupiter, Fla., the two had some challenges as they missed a connecting flight and had to wait for another plane, but flying into an airport farther from their destination than the original. Thankfully, B&B Olympic Bowl owners Paul and Shelly Hanson were already in Florida for the event and were able to meet them at the other airport and bring them back to the bowling venue.

The delay, however, caused the local team to miss the banquet as well as some valuable practice time.

Shelly explained that their bowling alley was the smallest represented at the tournament. With just eight lanes, it is tiny compared to other 50- to 60-lane houses.

She added the weather in Florida is traditionally humid, which causes the lanes and the approaches to be sticky. "It's hard to control the humidity and it affects how a bowler does, including ball release," she explained.

Even though Brad and Domanic did not have much practice time, the two did well in the first day of bowling. After the first three games of the day, the two were in 12th place, just 28 pins behind.

"We kept creeping up all day, but we finished just two pins shy of eighth place," Brad said. Unfortunately, only the top eight teams advanced to play on the second day.

While Brad joked it was his fault for letting the stress get to him and "choking," Shelly disagreed and said, "He bowled really well, especially in a place that big with all that pressure."

Brad normally averages a score of 160, but bowled an average of 187 at the tournament. Domanic also bowled above his average of 120 each game, earning a tournament average of 130 a game.

The two, ultimately, were pleased with their ninth-place finish and both enjoyed the time they were able to spend together on the trip. In addition to a day of bowling, they were able to visit the Palm Beach Zoo and the closing ceremonies and awards banquet.

Domanic has received $1,250 in scholarships through the bowling tournaments that will be held for him until he begins college. He received $1,000 from the national tournament and smaller amounts from others, including $150 when he took second in a Pepsi tournament.

One of the highlights for Domanic was meeting professional bowlers Norm Duke and Stephanie Nations, who is the coordinator of the national tournament. Duke worked with the kids and gave them pointers as well as performed some trick shots on the lanes.

He will also value the experience of meeting new people and getting to learn more about the sport of bowling, including appropriate shot placement.

"It's not speed that really matters, but it's the accuracy," Shelly agreed.

Brad shared that he was impressed when seeing the camaraderie of the kids and how well they got along, even though they were competitors on the lanes. He also enjoyed visiting with the other parents as they sat by the pool. "Everyone was so nice," he explained and said it was great to feel included in a group of people from all over the country.

"Bowlers are like that," Shelly added. "It's a great sport that way."

Domanic's best memory from this whole experience, he said, is the reaction of the community and the kids from his school.

Both he and Brad appreciate the support they received, both in the positive thoughts and in the sponsorships they received from the F&M Community Bank and First Southeast Bank, as well as a few kind individuals.

Paul and Shelly were their "knights in shining armor," Brad said. "It was nice to have Shelly and Paul there with us. Their familiar faces helped keep us calm."

"All the stuff they do here," Brad continued referring to the local bowling alley, "made it possible for us to do it. It's the only place I've ever really bowled, the only place Domanic has bowled."

Paul and Shelly were proud to travel with them and hope to keep putting out good bowlers. "Maybe we can make a career out of it," said Shelly.

"It's a consistency sport," added Paul. "You can do it your whole life. You don't have to be an athlete to enjoy it."

Looking back, Brad said, "We would definitely do it again in a heartbeat. It was a great experience."

Domanic agreed, but right now is looking forward to getting involved in the youth league and the local high school team. He started seventh grade at Fillmore Central last week and will be involved in football and band. He hopes to get more games in and some more practices before the new competitions begin.